I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to back-packing. Prior to this trip (back in 2007) Amber and I spent two weeks in Vietnam & Thailand with another couple (shout out to Tom & Sarah) and we all departed Auckland with nothing but a half-filled day-pack. The strategy here (given that it is was mine and Amber’s first time in this part of the world) was to pack minimally and… buy up large! Suits, knock-off polo shirts, trinkets etc were bought and packed in knock-off branded luggage ready for the return home. This time however, things are a little different.
As we arrived in Melaka on our luxury coach, grabbed a 15RM (approx. $7NZD) taxi to Chinatown and pulled up next to the “Riverside Guesthouse” (booked on the awesome hostelworld.com website), I realised that we have it MUCH easier than many predecessing backpackers.
The term “flashpacking” is bandied about here and there, but I can tell you (so far from my very limited experience) it is conveniently brilliant. Hostel and guethouse owners have obviously cottoned onto the fact that (in major centres) back-packers have a CHOICE where they stay. Now, this makes less of an impact in some high-demand destinations at peak times but, thus far, the places we’ve stayed at have been clean, welcoming and (touch wood) secure. Also, the amount of fellow travellers flaunting netbooks and iPads is also surprising to me. It seems any guesthouse host or hostel who doesn’t supply free wifi may be fighting a losing battle… but I suspect this standard will be re-set (ie. Lowered) once we hit Laos…
Melaka was cool (I suspect it still is, even after we’ve departed). Dubbed the “Venice of Asia”, the city of Melaka was once a major trading port and, at various times, has been ruled by the Portugese, Dutch, Chinese & British. This has meant a number of things, none of which I think I’ll bore you with in this instalment… except that… Carlsberg beer, Portugese battlements, Rice-based dishes and… whatever the British left (possibly a cynical view of the weather), seems to reside in this little tourist town harmoniously and in good faith.
In Melaka Muslim religious chants sound over seemingly-hidden loudspeakers, crazy older residents hoon down tightly-packed side-streets, three different religions have temples situated within cats’ swing of each other (on Harmony Street) and Singaporean weekend tuorists snap photos of their relatives showing the peace sign. Meanwhile, not so far away, us “flashpackers” form a make-shift United Nations at the Riverview Guesthouse (NZ, South Africa, Switzerland, Hungary, India, France & Hong Kong all represented at different times) and plan our friendly attack on the next must-visit eatery and nearby bar for a few post-dinner “quiets”.
Four nights was the perfect amount of time for me and included the Jonker Street night markets (every Friday & Saturday night), Capitol Satay (picture big stainless steel table with bubbling-hot vat of satay sauce in the middle and a help-yourself fridge of assorted kebabs… EPIC), a free tour of a luxury hotel (ending with a free beer), cheap(ish) Tiger & Carlsberg, dinner with our hosts Raymond & Mali (Riverview Guesthouse – expect an invoice for all this product placement and brand exposure) and a founding of my appreciation of Malaysian vendors compared to their Thai counterparts.
Next stop, Kuala Lumpur.